Pity the team that has to face the Kimberley Dynamiters. Every play, every shot, every goal showed the defending KIJHL champions are in a class of their own. And the Nelson Leafs? Not even close.
The league-leading Dynamiters put on a clinic Saturday in a 4-0 win over a fatigued Leafs squad that often had difficulty just moving the puck across the neutral zone. Sixty minutes of failure against Kimberley’s air-tight defence led to Nelson showing plenty of frustration with several penalties near the end of the contest.
“I think that just comes when you are down,” said Leafs captain Rayce Miller. “No one likes to lose. Especially our team. Of course tempers are going to get high, guys are going to take liberties, rough up the other team but at the end of the day we need to be better as a group and we can be. Just onward and upward from here.”
Sawyer Hunt scored twice while Jordan Busch and Tanner Wit each added singles Kimberley (32-5-4), and goaltender Tyson Brouwer stopped 16 shots for the shutout.
Patrick Ostermann, meanwhile, made 27 saves in net for the Leafs (17-23-1), who were playing their third game in three nights. The unfortunate scheduling started with a 4-2 win at home against Grand Forks on Thursday followed by a 5-2 loss in Fernie on Friday.
Miller conceded fatigue was a factor Saturday.
“Yeah, you definitely feel tired but that’s never an excuse to give away a game. Especially at home you need to come ready to play and get the ‘W.'”
Kimberley struck first blood just over five minutes into the game when Dynamiters defenceman George Bertoia’s shot from the point on the power play was tipped in by Hunt for the early lead.
The period was dominated by Dynamiter possession but Ostermann was game just one night after being forced to make 52 saves against Fernie. His best against Kimberley was a glove save that had the crowd buzzing. Still, Nelson struggled to keep the puck on their sticks and even getting across centre ice often seemed a tall order aside from the occasional breakout.
“Give the other team credit. They’re a well-coached team and they’ve got a lot of skill,” said Leafs head coach Mario DiBella. “They implemented a full trap in the neutral zone as soon as the puck turned over. It was hard for us to penetrate what they had set up for their defence.”
It was a far more even game in the second period. The Leafs looked competent offensively – insofar as they were actually able to complete passes and set up plays against the stout Dynamiters defence – but that didn’t put them on the scoreboard.
Busch added his 55th point of the campaign with a power-play goal at 8:11 to give Kimberley a 2-0 lead.
Then, as the period entered its final minute, Ostermann spread out to make an outstanding stick save at the goal-line, but that was made moot only a second later when Hunt banged in the rebound for a 3-0 lead.
Nelson had the poor luck of playing Kimberley one night after a rare loss for the Dynamiters, 5-2 to Columbia Valley. Dynamiters head coach Jerry Bancks said the loss gave his team more incentive to win in Nelson. Bancks, meanwhile, used the game to juggle his lines with an eye on the post-season.
“Your whole season is building towards the playoffs,” he said. “Every game that you play, every practice that you have is building towards the playoffs. We accomplished the goal of making sure we’re in the playoffs fairly early this year.”
Nelson tried a more physical effort against Kimberley in the third. Several bodies went sliding along the ice and into the boards, yet that hardly did the Leafs any favours – they didn’t even get a shot for the first nine minutes of the period and ended with just two during the full 20 minutes.
The period ended with a thud, both literally and metaphorically.
Leafs forward Nicholas Ketola laid a charging hit to the head of Kimberley forward Korbyn Chabot with just over five minutes left in the game. That ejected Ketola from the game, and three minutes later Wit scored on the power play to add an exclamation point to the Dynamiters’ dominance against the Leafs.
Bancks said the hit left Chabot woozy, but that they won’t know if he suffered a concussion until he can be examined Sunday. DiBella didn’t believe Ketola’s hit made contact with Chabot’s head. The point of contact, for what it’s worth, was unclear from the press box.
“At worst it may have been called as a charge,” said DiBella. “I thought that he came across the ice, the player was skating the puck up ice and Ketola hit him on his shoulder. The shot was not a head shot and to call it a head shot was the wrong call. That’s my opinion and I didn’t have the same vantage point as the referee did.”
Notes: Leafs D Kyle Chernenkoff sat out with what DiBella said was a banged-up upper body. … DiBella said G Josh Williams (knee), who was acquired at the trade deadline, may make his Leafs debut next weekend although the team continue to be cautious. … D Brendan McKay was the latest in a revolving door of major midget players getting a look by the Leafs. … Nelson doesn’t play again until a road game Saturday against the Castlegar Rebels. The Leafs’ next home date is Jan. 29 for a rematch against the Rebels.